Grenadier defense protects home court, wins RSC West

Men’s basketball defeats IU Kokomo after late run in regular season home finale


Brandon Miniard

The Grenadiers huddle around senior center Seth Cox after their RSC West clenching victory over IU Kokomo.

Brandon Miniard, Sports Editor

The IUS men’s basketball team faced a tall order on Feb. 18, where it ended the regular season by hosting IU Kokomo with the RSC West title and a top seed in the upcoming River States Conference Tournament on the line. The Grenadiers came into the game 12-3 in RSC play — one of those losses courtesy of the Cougars in a 62-61 loss at Kokomo.

February’s rematch was the same in terms of intensity — as both sides played with gritty determination — but with a different result. The Grenadiers made a late-game charge towards a 77-67 victory, helping them clinch the division title.

“My hat’s off to IU Kokomo because they’ve been a great team all year long, we just played better than they did tonight,” Head Coach Wiley Brown said. “But I also have to tip my hat to my guys because I’ve never seen the kind of defense they played tonight.”

That defense led to a substantial gap in the turnover column, as the Cougars suffered 13 total miscues as opposed to only four Grenadier turnovers. Having only one in the entire second half, the Grenadiers scored 18 unanswered points from their opponent’s turnovers. As a team, they had seven steals and nine blocks.

The contest started out close, with three ties in the first six minutes. The Cougars ended up taking the lead for the majority of the half, but the Grenadiers responded with a 15-5 surge, retreating into the locker room with a 40-35 advantage. Junior wing David Burton and sophomore guard Anthony Wales Jr. combined for half of the Grenadiers’ 40 first-half points, each scoring 10.

The second half saw the Cougars take the lead, thanks in part to a pair of deep 3-pointers courtesy of Akil McClain, who scored 11 of his 17 points in the period. At one point the deficit increased to seven, with the Grenadiers trying to close the gap for much of the half.

Then, with about four and a half minutes remaining in the game, the Grenadier offense hit its stride, exploding for a 17-6 run, most coming on triples from Burton, Wales, and freshman Jocobi Hendricks. They also took advantage of seven Cougar miscues, allowing them to stretch their lead to double digits in the final minutes to secure their division-clinching victory.

“When [Kokomo] went up six, seven points, we could have easily dropped our heads and gave up,” Brown said. “But no, they kept fighting, we got a couple three’s when we weren’t shooting that well, hit a couple three’s down the stretch and blew the game open.”

Both Burton and Wales paced the Grenadiers with 17 points each, the former also contributing eight rebounds, and three apiece in steals and blocks. Sophomore Jaivaugh Jackson chipped in 16 points and five rebounds. McClain led the Cougars with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Desean Hampton chipped in 13 and pulled down 17 boards, including seven offensive rebounds.

With the win, the Grenadiers finish the regular season 20-7 (13-3 RSC), now in the midst of a seven-game winning streak. Brown’s troops usually play very well at home and it showed once again this year, finishing the regular season 12-1 at the IUS Activities Building. That will play into the Grenadiers’ advantage for the RSC Tournament, as they now guarantee home-court advantage in the first two rounds of the tournament, which starts next Wednesday, Feb. 26.

“We gotta go in and win three games straight,” Burton said. “That’s what it’s all about, just winning three and getting an automatic bid to the National Tournament.”

The Grenadiers face off against the East’s fourth-seeded Ohio Christian University (9-19, 6-10 RSC) in the first round of the RSC Tournament. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26 in the Activities Building.